Hillbilly Days Festival 2023 in Pikeville Kentucky, USA The city of Pikeville Kentucky welcomes over 100,000 visitors to it’s Hillbilly Days Festival each year in April. The Hillbilly Days Festival will put the Yee back in your Haw, when it celebrates everything Hillbilly for three days with parades, 300 food vendors, bluegrass, folk, gospel and […]Hillbilly Days 2023 Pikeville, KY 41501, USA Pikeville Kentucky USA
The city of Pikeville Kentucky welcomes over 100,000 visitors to it’s Hillbilly Days Festival each year in April. The Hillbilly Days Festival will put the Yee back in your Haw, when it celebrates everything Hillbilly for three days with parades, 300 food vendors, bluegrass, folk, gospel and rock music, vintage car shows, fun run for the kids, arm wrestling contest and special kids entertainment.
It’s a chance for the town to raise funds for their local Lexington Shriner Hospital, since 1977 they have raised 3 million dollars for kids with wounds and burns.
”Eat sticky pork chops, chicken on a stick and listen to bluegrass gospel, you’ll have more fun than a tornado in a trailer park, as you learn their tongue and celebrate the ways of the Hillbilly!”
It’s a time to get to Kentucky, eat amazing food, find hillbilly wares, listen to the best music, learn some hillbilly talk and find out what it means to have hillbilly spirit!
When you run a festival for 43 years, it becomes a well oiled machine. The organisers have plenty of food available and live music going all day and night.
If you are a music buff, you get to listen to real bluegrass, rock, bluegrass gospel, southern rock and country music. The crowd is humorous and friendly, poking fun at themselves and the hillbilly lifestyle, but also highlighting how caring, intelligent and fun Hillbilly’s can be!
You have to try all the food, because everything is delicious. Everything on offer from Chinese to local funnel cake. Moonshine is the Hillbilly drink and you have to go to a tasting to see if you can hack the burn.
The fundraising fun run is one of the healthier activities, which is a 10k or 5k run or 2 mile walk. The overall winner receives a trophy and every entrant gets a custom t-shirt. Age divisions keep a tally on how you went. It’s a great way to see Pikeville early in the morning when the crowds are still in bed.
With some activities taking place over all four days, its easy to get around all the activities, like the moonshine tasting, more than once!
Some of the live shows are ticketed, and its best to get these tickets well in advance. The streets have ample food choices and there is plenty of room for thousands at the festival site. It’s a family friendly atmosphere.
With multiple parades and ceremonies, the event is well organised, proving plenty of room for seeing all the action. There’s also some very local events like a quilt show, mini golf and even a NASCAR simulator, so if you come across these, get in on it!
In one of the most bizarre events, one must see the not-so-fancy Pig Drop. Entrants pay $20 for designated square, they let a pig loose in the stall and the square the pig defecates on wins! The ‘owner’ of the square has to clean it up! This is a huge fundraiser for the festival.
Get out your best overalls and fake gold teeth. It’s time to get kitted out in Hillbilly style. Checked flannel, straw hats, paint on freckles, cover your denim in patches and get boot scooting!
It’s a humid subtropical kind of climate in Pikeville Kentucky so pack:
T-shirt’s and denim
Running or comfortable shoes
Long sleeved shirts
Light jackets for drizzly rain
Many of the bigger events like parades are free, but there are ticketed music events, theatre events, entry to carnival, brewery tours etc, which must be booked before the festival or while you are there. There are also lots of raffles and activities which fundraise for the hospital.
The three day carnival begins on a Wednesday and end very late on Saturday on April 20-22, 2023.
Thursday- Saturday – there are a number of daily activities that you can possibly squeeze in, such as Moonshine Tastings, 3 stages of live music, big live music shows, big theatre shows and beer tastings. There are also daily workshops on how to become a hillbilly, where you can learn the speak, its called the “Hillbilly Degree”.
Thursday – Music begins in the park from noon. There is an arts craft market from 10am, Welcoming ceremony in Pike Park from 5pm, Ghost walk at 6pm, and fireworks show after dark.
Friday – Hillbilly breakfast from 8am, Hillybilly Days Pig Drop at 11am, arm wrestling competition from 11am-6pm, Ghost walk, live music and the arts and crafts fair continues.
Saturday – Hillbilly Days Fun Run begins at 8am, Hillbilly Car Show takes off from 9am, Stump Speaking at 10am, Hillbilly Parade at 2pm, Live music at venue Dueling Barrels from 7pm as well as a big arena style show at the Kentucky Expo Centre from 7pm. The music and food will go on into the night, which makes for a cracking Saturday night.
Don’t assume that everyone is dressed up as a “hillbilly”, cos the real ones are walking amongst the pretenders. They will stick out from the wannabes.
While drinking on the streets could be frowned up, the real hillbilly’s have moonshine in them lemonade cups.
The food is extremely high fat, high sugar and deep fried. Don’t expect to find salad when fried brownies, twinkies, candy bars and funnel cakes are dunked in oil.
Pikeville is nearly equally located between three international airports, or you can come from Louisville. It’s 213 miles from Northern Kentucky International Airport in Cincinnati, 214 miles from Louisville International Airport and 228 miles from Port Columbus International Airport.
Allow up to six hours for driving to Pikeville, its a cross country road trip to hillbilly country. Transfer buses also are available, via Nashville.
Theres even a Hilton hotel in Pikeville, so book your lodgings early at the local B and B’s, guest houses, airbnbs, and historic mansions. Theres something for all budgets.
Stay in an historic mansion, this bed and breakfast looks like something out of a Doctor Seuss, bright blue in colour with large verandah, round and diamond shaped window and quirky shaped roof. The rooms are in a heritage style, filled with antique furniture and the owners will tell you the spooky history of the house. Blue shingles for the win.
There is a public transit bus system around the town and a taxi service. There is UBER and Lyft services. The best way to get around is to hire a car. It’s accessible and easy to walk around the festival site, and will be close to accomodation in the township.
Hillbilly Days festival was created by a group of people living in the Shriners neighbourhood to raise money for the Shriner’s hospital. Two locals Howard “Dirty Ear” Stratton and “Shady” Grady Kinney, decided to begin the event after visiting a similar festival in Ohio in 1976.
As for the ‘hillbilly’ origins, The Appalachian Mountains that surround the area were settled in the 18th century by the Scottish and Irish. It’s thought that the term ‘hillbilly’ comes from the Scottish dialect of the area at that time.
The term spread wildly in the years that followed the American Civil War by word of mouth. Appalachians were perceived as backward, quick to violence and inbred because of isolation. News of fights in the mountains between the McCoys and Hatfields created the stereotype of the hillbilly.
For the first festival to go ahead Howard and Grady had to get permission from Pikevilles judge and city mayor. It’s now raised over $3 million for the Shriners Hospital, with the founders children and family continuing to be involved in the organisation of the event today.
This is Kentucky, so the food is sweet and fried, but delicious! You got to try to local delicacies and enjoy all the different types of vendors on offer.
Mobile BBQ smoke houses, sweet beef and pork ribs, corn on the cob, corn fritters, chicken on a stick, whole chickens on a stick, funnel cakes, apple pie, pizza, fries, potato twirlers, Mr Beefy’s steak sandwiches and deep fried taters!
Pikeville is a historical marker for pioneers that settled in the area. If you are a history buff, love natural parks, forests and the mountains, then you will love Pikeville.
Enjoy the White Lightning Zip Lines, adventure meets history as you take rides on zip lines that are over 1000 metres long over the mountains. Hear the stories of how moonshine was transported through these mountains as you zip! Arrive 15 minutes early for training and quick fitness check.
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